HP Takes Aim At Red Hat-Cisco With $1B OpenStack Helion Cloud Offensive

Hewlett-Packard is stepping up its cloud offensive against the Cisco-Red Hat partnership with its Helion line of OpenStack offerings, including its own OpenStack distribution and Cloud Foundry-based Platform-as-a-Service, backed up by a $1 billion investment over the next two years.

The new open-source-based cloud products and services are aimed at providing customers faced with a politically charged technology landscape of competing cloud stacks a safe haven as they architect cloud strategies across hybrid IT environments.

Helion also took a direct shot at OpenStack vendor Red Hat and HP rival Cisco, which teamed with Red Hat earlier this year to develop a new go-to-market strategy called "Journey to the Open Cloud." Cisco and Red Hat have boasted they are driving an entire cloud stack with playbooks and reference architectures.

[Related: HP CTO Martin Fink: 12 Reasons Cisco's Intercloud Is A Bad Bet ]

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HP, which also launched an OpenStack professional services practice, is even offering an insurance policy of sorts—an OpenStack no-cap indemnification program that protects customers from intellectual property infringement claims. That protection could be critical given the technology patent infringement lawsuits that have plagued the open-source Linux operating system since 2003.

"This is about extending our leadership in hybrid IT delivery and cloud," said Steve Dietch, vice president of cloud go to market at HP, Palo Alto, Calif. "We believe the new style of IT demands openness and security and the industry working together, similar to the way Linux adoption spread in the enterprise. It is our intention to do exactly the same thing with OpenStack in the cloud. It's extending the same strategy we have had for the last three years, embracing an open, flexible and agile IT environment."

HP said it plans to provide the OpenStack public cloud services in 20 data centers worldwide over the next 18 months. What's more, HP said the OpenStack cloud services will be available through its partner network of 110 service providers and through HP partners.

An HP Helion OpenStack Community edition will be available immediately with a commercial release soon to follow. HP also plans to release a preview version later this year of its application Platform-as-a-Service offering based on the Cloud Foundry open-source platform.

HP partners, for their part, said they see Helion-branded offerings increasing cloud customer adoption and even accelerating their own cloud business model transformation.

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"This is great for customers," said Jed Ayres, chief marketing officer at MCPc, the $262 million Cleveland-based national solution provider, ranked No. 89 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list of the top North American solution providers by revenue. "They are confused. This puts an architecture, framework and consulting around the cloud. It's also a big deal for partners because we can go into our customers now and start talking about OpenStack and the economics of OpenStack through a consulting framework that HP has already validated."

The "game-changer" for partners, said Ayres, is a proven HP consulting methodology that can be used to build out a comprehensive set of OpenStack cloud services offerings using MCPc technical talent or HP services professionals.

"Often vendors are guarded with their consulting methodology and refuse to share it with partners," Ayres said. "HP is saying, ’Use our OpenStack intellectual property. We are going to let you have it. Come learn how to do this with a team of smart people we have here at HP.' "

Mike Strohl, CEO of Concord, Calif.-based Entisys Solutions, one of the top virtualization solution providers in the country, said he sees Helion as an all-inclusive hybrid cloud offering that runs the gamut from public to private and managed clouds along with traditional IT infrastructure that will spark more customers to make the move to the cloud.

"This positions HP as a leader in the cloud from a security and performance standpoint, tightly integrating private and public cloud so customers can extend their enterprise systems into the cloud," he said. "It's not the end of the story. It's the beginning of the story. Cloud is part of every discussion we are having with customers right now. They are struggling to keep IT operations running and reshape them with cloud at the same time to bring value to their business. They are looking for strategy and programs to help them move to the cloud."

Strohl said he was particularly charged up by HP's OpenStack indemnification—even if it doesn't cover security breaches. "That to me is the biggest deal," he said. "It takes away a lot of the unknowns around the cloud. It removes risk for customers. That, more than anything else, should get customers to move faster to the cloud. It would be wonderful if they could take it all the way, but I understand there are a lot of people and processes to consider with security [indemnification]."

Strohl predicted Entisys' HP cloud product and services sales will be up as much as 30 percent in 2014 and 100 percent in 2015 as HP ramps up its investment in OpenStack engineering and resources. "There is a lot of work that needs to be done," he said. "The $1 billion HP is spending on R&D, innovation and integration is going to lead to a lot of proof-of-concepts and customer testing and a lot more buying next year."

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HP PartnerOne Director of Marketing Patrick Eitenbichler said he sees the HP Helion offering as a watershed moment for solution providers looking to drive big cloud computing sales and profits with a full range of offerings and services. "We have a host of professional services from advisory to application transformation, strategy and design services that partners can either resell or deliver themselves," he said. "That is huge because customers need help right now. There is no question there are lots of VARs being asked by customers how they should approach the cloud."

The Helion offensive marks the first time that HP has united its OpenStack offerings under a single new brand name.

Helion refers to both the doubly positively charged helium ion and the Greek god of the sun, Helios, said Dietch. "That goes to our story that we are playing above the clouds," he said. "It represents our vision and our strategy for the market. It really puts a shining light -- no pun intended -- with the Greek sun god on what we are trying to do from a product and services perspective across the cloud."